Safety First – Technique Second!
One of the silver linings in this dark cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic is the way in which so many karate-ka have engaged with social media and shared with everyone training videos for instructional and entertainment/informational purposes. I have no doubt that everyone is acting for the greater good of karate and the effort which everyone is making is truly remarkable and makes me feel so appreciative of our Karate community I am lucky to be a small part of.
Just to be clear here, if you are showing a training idea or having some fun then that is absolutely fine. This post is geared towards content which is clearly labelled and designed to be used as online training outside of the regular training environment (ie regular class in the dojo).
With a background in law, I tend to look at things from the position of a duty of care and risk assessments, therefore my contribution, to the great content already produced by many others, is by providing three ways in which we can keep our student’s safe during training from home whilst they follow along with our live or pre-recorded training lessons/instructional/tutorials or whatever other name we call our “virtual lessons”.
1. A training environment free from dangerous hazards.
One drill I like to do with my students, especially if they are training in an unfamiliar environment is to make a list of potential hazards and how to remove or reduce the risks to a nominal values.
As we are now training from home, we are likely to be training on a different floor surface then we are used to. Appropriate footwear should be used. Maybe the flooring is slippery, maybe its uneven, maybe its cluttered with loose pebbles and dirt.
This then moves to walls, objects and other items in the training area as well as the size of the area itself. All these points need to be thought about before training begins.
2. Appropriate Equipment that is in good working order This point has two parts, which were highlighted to me during conversations I have had with Jamie Clubb and Iain Abernethy, so a big thank you to both of them for assisting with the thought process. Firstly, the training equipment needs to be clean and appropriate. During our usual class we, as instructors, should be aware of the state and condition of the training equipment we and our students are using. If the punch bag has a “solid patch” we will sort it out. If a focus pads is dirty, maybe it has mud or blood in it, the we will clean it as appropriate. If the training mats are ripping or creating gaps between them, we can fix the issue so that they are safe to use. When we are teaching virtually this is difficult to do, so we need to ensure we advise our students to ensure they are checking their training equipment regularly (before and at the end of every session would be my preference) to ensure they are in safe working order. Secondly, if the usual training equipment is not available, that it is replaced with an appropriate apparatus. Some excellent videos have been produced showing how we can adapt two-person drills on a punch bag with the use of karate-belts and ropes etc… We need to ensure we remain safe when switching out a training partner for a belt/rope. Nothing should be wrapped around our necks nor should we be switching makiwara for concrete walls. We have a health service to seriously think about, they need to be focussed on those who really need help due to the pandaemic – they do not need to be dealing with a karate enthusiast who strangled himself, broke his hand on a brick wall or snapped an ankle trying to do a spinning jumping back kick after watching a video labelled “online training tutorial”.
3. Technical Competence Linked into the above, is that we need to ensure that anyone following our virtual lessons already have sufficient level of technical competence. It should go without saying but if do not explain the technical difficulty of a move then there is a risk of someone thinking it is “easy” when it isn’t. If you are teaching a jumping spinning back kick with no breakdown and make no references to the pre-requisite skill required before starting, then you run the risk in adding your students to the list of those who are being dealt with by the NHS – when it could have been avoided. This point also links to the health of the participant. We need to remember that most of us are not also doctors. Just like attending live classes in person, our students should ensure they are fit and healthy enough to take part in our virtual lessons and seek the appropriate medical advice if they have specific conditions which they are aware of.
Before ending this post, I have a final thought on this topic which really sums up all the above points and that is common sense. A really simple gauge to use would be "if someone got hurt following my tutorial, could I see a Court watching my video and thinking that I took, at minimum, reasonable steps to keep my students safe whilst they follow along what I am doing?".
There is potential for multiple long term effects of one posting something dangerous and calling it an instructional/tutorial video which could affect both personal and professional aspects of one's life, therefore I would always side with caution when providing online instructional videos for students to follow along with solely in their homes/outside of the training hall.
Let’s keep the great content coming and keep working towards bringing the karate community together with lots of different things to practice during the lockdown. But let’s do this in a way which keeps us all safe and healthy too! To adapt a phrase from Funakoshi – Safety First, Technique Second.